Telegram CEO Pavel Durov announced that 3 million new users signed up to his encrypted messaging service in just 24 hours. The sudden, massive influx is likely due to the service outages affecting Facebook and WhatsApp on Wednesday.
Facebook, its two messaging apps, and Instagram, its image-hosting app, suffered from their worst ever service outages yesterday. The social media platforms went through 14 hours of disrupted service, and it may have cost them big time – as much as $90 million in revenue.
The last time Facebook went down at this scale was in 2008 when the service had 150 million users. Yesterday, the outage affected an unknown but significant portion of the company’s 2.5 billion users. The disruption impacted WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.
A third-party mapping site called Down Detector indicates that the Facebook outage was global in scale.
Things move fast in the world of social media.
For many, a disruption of “only” 14 hours is unthinkable. It’s no wonder, then, that even an outage of under a day would cause people to look elsewhere for their messaging needs.
Telegram has been growing steadily over the last few years. At the last count, it had 200 million followers, although this figure is from March 2018. At the time, the company claimed to have 350,000 new users signing up daily.
On the other hand, Facebook’s growth has been slowing down recently. GDPR, recently-introduced EU regulations, have impacted user sign-ups, as have the many scandals surrounding the company’s data breaches and involvement with the likes of Cambridge Analytica.
Many view the face-off between Telegram and Facebook as something of a “David and Goliath” story – the social media behemoth versus the new upstart. They allege that the two companies and their founders have very different track records and ethics, with one far more compliant with authorities and corporations than the other.
Telegram appeals to many for the same reason that Facebook does not – data privacy. While Facebook has been embroiled in numerous scandals for illegally harvesting user data, Telegram is highly secured. The app secures messages under end-to-end encryption, and unlike Facebook services, Telegram does not monitor data or sell it to advertisers.
Telegram was banned in Durov’s home country, Russia, when he refused to provide the government with access to user data.
Durov commented on this on Twitter.
“In 5+ years, Telegram disclosed exactly zero bytes of private data to third-parties including government. That’s why Telegram is banned by authoritarian governments such as Russia and Iran. Other apps such as WhatsApp have no issues with there.
In fact, not even Telegram can access the messages that users send to one another. This makes it a popular choice among privacy-oriented users in the age of data breaches. Telegram began using end-to-end encryption three years before Facebook and WhatsApp.
While Durov has not cited the outages as the cause of the sudden increase in Telegram users, it’s an unlikely coincidence. With people leveling ever-more criticism against Facebook, the giant looks vulnerable for once.
Yesterday’s incident could be a welcome victory, kickstarting mass adoption of Telegram. In the age of data breaches and electoral manipulation through social media, a little privacy goes a long way.
Last modified: July 2, 2020 8:28 PM UTC